The original iPhone SE has often topped our lists of the most environmentally friendly iPhones, and if you have managed to keep your original SE for this long, then we salute you, as one of the most environmentally friendly solutions for mobile phone ownership is to keep your device for longer. The original SE is now starting to get phased out and will no longer be supported when Apple release their latest iOS in September, which begs the question: how will the new iPhone SE 2020 compare?
Improvements to Apple's Sustainability
The world was a different place when the original SE was released in 2016, but Apple were already starting their journey towards environmental responsibility by committing to material efficiency and restricting the use of harmful substances long before their competitors. Since the original SE, there have been overall improvements to the processes behind Apple’s manufacturing including:
- 100% recycled tin for the circuitry solder
- 100% recycled rare earth elements in the taptic engine
- 100% renewable energy used at final assembly centres
- Zero waste to landfill from final assembly centres
Of course there are still steps that need to be taken, however Apple are clearly moving in the right direction. As one of the largest mobile phone manufacturers in the world, it is encouraging to see them paving the way in publishing these details frequently.
What Has Changed Since the iPhone 11?
Not much has changed regarding the latest iPhone in the lineup. The iPhone SE 2020 comes with only slightly better ratios of recycled content in its packaging and better charging efficiency. Due to the smaller form factor of the device, it requires less packaging and lower power consumption in general which contributes to its low lifetime carbon emissions.
Comparing the maximum emissions from the largest capacity models, we can see that the iPhone SE 256GB fits nice and inconspicuously with the other devices. The most significant change is that smaller "Usage" emissions figure compared to its predecessors. This is likely due to the lower power LCD screen and the optimised charging, but to see that not reflect in the overall total emissions proves more needs to be done to bring mining and production total figures down.
Apple are close to removing all of the plastic packaging from their products, but they have not yet made the transition to being fully plastic-free, a hope that we have held out for the past few releases. Apple explicitly state that they are “working to eliminate plastics” from their packaging, but this has not yet come to fruition.
The Environmental Impact of the iPhone SE (2020) Carbon Emission Stats
With every new release, Apple publish a detailed environmental report, and the iPhone SE 2020 report is no different, providing a detailed breakdown of the calculated emissions for the full life cycle of the device.
So how does the iPhone SE (2020) compare to its predecessor? The device itself comes in different capacities to the original iPhone SE, and even though there was a bigger capacity overlap than is tabled below. The original iPhone SE report only provides data for two capacities, however this is sufficient for us to make a worthwhile comparison:
|iPhone SE||iPhone SE 2020||Percentage change|
|128GB||60kg CO2-e||62kg CO2-e||↑ 3.33%|
The only device that we can effectively compare is the 2020 model of the iPhone SE 128GB and it only has a 2KG increase on lifetime emissions. Considering that the device itself has far superior internal specifications, this is not a significant increase. For instance, the flagship iPhone 11 Pro Max that we analysed in September has up to double the amount of lifetime emissions compared to the iPhone SE 2020.
The new SE ranks up quite well compared to other Apple devices too. To give you an idea of how it compares to the rest of the lineup of 41 devices in total, you can find the full iPhone Emissions Ranking table here.
|Device||Total KG CO2e||Rank|
|iPhone 11 128GB||73||=21|
iPhone SE (2020) 256GB
|iPhone 8 256GB||71||22|
|iPhone XR 64GB||62||=33|
iPhone SE (2020) 128GB
|iPhone 6S 128GB||61||34|
|iPhone 8 64GB||57||=36|
|iPhone SE (2020) 64GB||57||=36|
|iPhone 7 32GB||56||37|
The iPhone SE 64GB takes the 6th spot having the lowest lifetime emissions of the entire history of the Apple product range, which makes it a worthy choice for those that endeavour to keep their carbon footprint as low as possible, especially considering the track record of Apple supporting devices for industry-leading periods of time. Such already low total emissions figure can be spread evenly over the next 4 years to give you annual emissions of as low as 14.24KG CO2-e.
Is the iPhone SE 2020 a Sustainable Choice?
We would have preferred to see all the improvements Apple has made over the years result in a new champion, but the original iPhone SE still holds the record despite Apple's recent decision to change the way they calculate the lifetime emissions, which raised the original iPhone SE 32GB from 45KG CO2-e to 54KG CO2-e, a sizeable increase.
We would always recommend that you consider the phone that you already own to see if it is supported, repairable, and has enough life in it to last a little bit longer. However, if you are looking to upgrade from an unsupported, broken or aging device, then the iPhone SE 2020 could be an option for you.
Just remember to sell your old phone with one of our many recyclers to ensure that the device is kept in the ecosystem for as long as possible.